Staff Picks

A Tree Grows in BrooklynAngela
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Betty Smith

Synopsis: The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years.

Angela Says: After a third source recommended I read this book, I made the time and am so glad that I did. The story revolves around the Nolan clan and primarily Francie growing up in Williamsburg Brooklyn prior to the outbreak of World War I. You learn about the previous generations of the Nolan family and see how it shapes Francie and her younger brother, Neeley, to become the new American generation for their family. After opting out of reading it in high school, I appreciated reading it later in life, knowing that it is more about all that it takes to grow and prosper in a harder situation. It is a timeless story that has unexpected changes and draws you into the life of Francie and her family. Read More Category: Family Saga

Angela's Past Staff Picks

Half a KingDonna
Half A King
Joe Abercrombie

Synopsis: Betrayed by his family and left for dead, Prince Yarvi, reluctant heir to a divided kingdom, has vowed to reclaim a throne he never wanted. But first, he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the shattered sea itself - all with only one good hand. Born a weakling in the eyes of a hard, cold world, he cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so has sharpened his mind to a deadly edge. Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast, he finds they can help him more than any noble could. Even so, Yarvi's path may end as it began - in twists, traps, and tragedy.

Donna Says: Abercrombie weaves a tale with a touch of Shakespeare's Macbeth in the first entry of The Shattered Sea series. The physically flawed Prince Yarvi, his betrayal, and his path to regain the throne delivers interesting characters, solid world-building, and a gripping story without excessive violence. Recommend for those who enjoyed Mark Lawrence's Prince of Thorns. This fantasy will work for the Read More Challenge's Court Intrigue entry.

Donna's Past Staff Picks

Dear Fahrenheit 451Elizabeth
Dear Fahrenheit 451
Annie Spence

Synopsis: In Dear Fahrenheit 451, librarian Annie Spence has crafted love letters and breakup notes to the iconic and eclectic books she has encountered over the years. From breaking up with The Giving Tree (a dysfunctional relationship book if ever there was one), to her love letter to The Time Traveler’s Wife (a novel less about time travel and more about the life of a marriage, with all of its ups and downs), Spence will make you think of old favorites in a new way. Filled with suggested reading lists, Spence’s take on classic and contemporary books is very much like the best of literature sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes surprisingly poignant, and filled with universal truths.

Elizabeth Says: A charming and funny series of love letters to books and reading. Perfect for bibliophiles. Can be used for a book about books for the 2019 Read More Challenge.

Elizabeth's Past Staff Picks

Cat's EyeMegan
Cat’s Eye
Margaret Atwood

Synopsis: Cat's Eye is the story of Elaine Risley, a controversial painter who returns to Toronto, the city of her youth, for a retrospective of her art. Engulfed by vivid images of the past, she reminisces about a trio of girls who initiated her into the fierce politics of childhood and its secret world of friendship, longing, and betrayal. Elaine must come to terms with her own identity as a daughter, a lover, and artist, and woman - but above all she must seek release from her haunting memories. Disturbing, hilarious, and compassionate, Cat's Eye is a breathtaking novel of a woman grappling with the tangled knots of her life.

Megan Says: It is the psychological aspects of Elaine’s childhood relationships that drew me into this book. We all have defining moments in our childhood; things that happen we will never forget… things that can never be undone. I enjoyed how Elaine’s emotional scars play out years later in her adult art; very much a visual catharsis.

Megan's Past Staff Picks

When the Men Were GoneNina
When The Men Were Gone
Marjorie Herrera Lewis

Synopsis: Every Friday night for as long as assistant principal Tylene Wilson can remember, the entire town has gathered in the stands, cheering their boys on. Each September brings with it the hope of a good season and a sense of unity and optimism. Now, the war has changed everything. Most of the Brownwood men over 18 and under 45 are off fighting, and in a small town, the possibilities are limited. Could this mean a season without football? But no one counted on Tylene, who learned the game at her daddy’s knee. She knows more about it than most men, so she does the unthinkable, convincing the school to let her take on the job of coach. Faced with extreme opposition by the press, the community, rival coaches, and referees and even the players themselves Tylene remains resolute. And when her boys rally around her, she leads the team and the town to a Friday night and a subsequent season they will never forget.

Nina Says: Tylene Wilson is a force to be reckoned with both in the novel and as a character who draws a reader in and never lets go. You cheer for her, laugh with her and shed a tear or two over her determination to keep the boys safe, even if only for one more year. Based on a real story, the novel is perfect for history and sports lovers alike. Read More Challenge Alert: A great, fast read for Historical Fiction or Famous Figure.

Nina's Past Staff Picks

The Firebrand and the First LadyRandall
The Firebrand and the First
Lady Patricia Bell-Scott

Synopsis: A groundbreaking book two decades in the works that tells the story of how a brilliant writer-turned-activist, granddaughter of a mulatto slave, and the first lady of the United States, whose ancestry gave her membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, forged an enduring friendship that changed each of their lives and helped to alter the course of race and racism in America. Pauli Murray first saw Eleanor Roosevelt in 1933, at the height of the Depression, at a government-sponsored, two-hundred-acre camp for unemployed women where Murray was living, something the first lady had pushed her husband to set up in her effort to do what she could for working women and the poor. The first lady appeared one day unannounced, behind the wheel of her car, her secretary and a Secret Service agent her passengers. To Murray, then aged twenty-three, Roosevelt’s self-assurance was a symbol of women’s independence, a symbol that endured throughout Murray’s life.

Randall Says: Relying on extensive primary-source material, Bell-Scott captures the decades-long friendship between Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activist Pauli Murray. Highly recommended for readers of U.S. history.

Randall's Past Staff Picks

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